Higher-level math program lets students explore possibilities at Rice University

Forty HISD high school students are getting a taste of college life and higher-level mathematics this month by studying the basics of calculus at the Tapia Math Science Scholars (TMSS) program.

The program, now in its second year, was started by the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) and the Rice University Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity (TCEE), in collaboration with HISD. Participating students live at Rice for four weeks, where they study, attend lectures given by Rice professors, and work on their own research projects.

“The main goal of these projects is to apply what we’re learning in the classroom to real world applications,” said Haeyun Lee, a student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Topics include mathematical models for analyzing water usage, computing the square root of the number two, depicting obesity rates in the United States, and evaluating the evidence for global warming. The students, who are guided and tutored by Rice undergraduates, will present their results at the TMSS Research Symposium on Aug. 1.

“We want to empower these students,” said Juliet Stipeche, member of the HISD Board of Education District VIII and associate director of the TCEE, who has been managing the program. “We want to allow them to understand the resources available in these institutions. We want to open up the ivory tower for the children of HISD.”

Dr. Richard Tapia, a professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice, has long been an advocate for creating opportunities in the STEM fields for underrepresented minorities.